Senator Lindsay Graham (R-SC) said recently he is considering introducing a constitutional amendment in Congress that would end “birthright citizenship” for children of illegal aliens. His supporters say this could be part of a compromise to achieve comprehensive immigration reform.
Sometimes one gets to wonder who advises congressmen and whether they think things through before they speak.
For one, the Supreme Court has long upheld birthright citizenship for children of unlawful immigrants born in the U.S. In 1898, the court held in United States v. Wong Kim Ark that the U.S.-born child of Chinese immigrants was entitled to citizenship under the 14th Amendment. And in subsequent decisions the court has specifically upheld citizenship for children of illegal aliens. In fact, in 1982, the Supreme Court spoke definitively on this issue when all nine justices agreed in Plyler v. Doe that the 14th Amendment applies to illegal aliens.
The Citizenship Clause of the 14th Amendment enshrined the centuries-old principle of Anglo-American case law known as jus soli, meaning “the law of the soil” or citizenship by birth. Its framers sought to specifically reverse the Dred Scott decision, which had briefly negated this principle by holding that U.S.-born persons of African descent were not citizens.
Unlikely as it is that the 14th Amendment may be altered in this way, let’s think for a second of the practical policy implications and their far reaching consequences of this proposal.
Immediately, it would render hundreds of thousands of innocent children stateless, leaving them without citizenship or nationality. Since they were born here, they cannot be deported. Other countries’ citizenship and immigration laws kick in. Even those eligible to apply for citizenship in some other country, by virtue of their parents’ nationality for example — an option not always available — may have their claim denied by that country, or might choose not to apply. And what does the good Senator recommend that the United States do with these people?
Shall we confine them into “refugee camps” (refugees from the U.S. government, that is), such as those plaguing the Middle East? Shall we create yet another inglorious reservation, a no man’s land in the Arizona desert, for example, where the “Unlucky Nation of Uncitizens” shall live?
More likely, millions of people born on U.S. soil will now, upon birth, come to increase the list of undocumented people already in the country, living in the shadows, unregistered and unprotected. Instead of reducing illegal immigration, we would have added a whole new category of people to it. Even worse, technically they cannot even be called immigrants. Millions of people forced overnight into illegality with no place to go. Scary.
Then, say for example, you, a hardworking taxpayer citizen, apply for a job or government benefits and need to prove your citizenship. If this proposal is implemented, birth certificates would no longer suffice. Prepare yourself, just in case someone challenges whether your parents had a right to be in this country, to hire an expensive immigration attorney that can trace your family tree and produce documentation proving your blood citizenship.
In order to implement this proposal, the government too would have to hire hundreds of trained immigration attorneys and bureaucrats to adjudicate those claims. There you have it, your taxpayer money at work.
As I said earlier, sometimes you just wonder.